Because the universe is beautiful enough without having to lie about it

Texas Science standards

January 26th, 2009 Posted in Creationism

Texas has finally updated its high school science standards. The fierce debate has bizarrely centred around the use of incredibly fine points of language in the infamous clause 3A, which, in its previous incarnation, allowed Creationists to wriggle their fallacious nonsense into science lessons.  The previous wording was the following:

(3) Scientific processes. The student uses critical thinking and scientific problem solving to make informed decisions. The student is expected to:

(A) analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information;

The problem here was the use of the term “strengths and weaknesses” which would be a reasonable inclusion if people could be trusted to deal reasonably with it – but instead it allowed creationists to get their own ideas of ‘weaknesses’ into the classroom. Unfortunately, the person who gets to decide what the weaknesses are was not well-enough defined.

However, the new wording is far better:

(3) Scientific processes. The student uses critical thinking, scientific reasoning and problem solving to make informed decisions. The student is expected to:

(A) analyze and evaluate scientific explanations, using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing;

The best bit about this new wording is that it uses the creationists’ own trick on them. They love using language that ‘nobody could possibly object to’, and then using this to weasel their nonsense past the censors. However, scientists here have cleverly used the same tactic to replace the old language with the new, in a way that nobody could possibly object to either. Here’s the best bit – it means exactly the same as the old wording, only without the loophole. It stresses the fact that scientific explanations are based on evidence, not on anecdote, guesswork, intuition or wishful thinking.

I posted about this before, when I was concerned about the issue of ‘questioning science’. Questioning is the main force driving science forward, but it’s clear that there’s a certain format by which science must be questioned that allows it to improve. It’s great if someone – anyone – questions science, but it’s equally important that the people answering those questions know what they are talking about, and the questions are based on evidence. And, in the case of the school classrooms, most teachers simply don’t have anywhere near enough knowledge to demolish the creationist nonsense in the way that it should be demolished – and, worse still, a scarily large number of them actually support that same nonsense.

It’s difficult to say, but sometimes science just has to be dictated from above – from the frontlines, as it were – and this new legislation helps teachers to support all that is good about scientific analysis, but without the insinuation that science is susceptible to criticism from a brainwashed 12-year old.

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